Better Late Than Never….
The last time I wrote about books, I gave a broad overview of what my reading life has looked like since 2015, the year that I began keeping track of what I was reading. In that time, 2019 was the best year for fiction that I think I have had in a long time. I should begin with a caveat. I’m not really a fiction girl. It’s not that I don’t like fiction, it’s that I don’t like bad fiction and I have trouble finding good books. (I’m sure they exist, I just can’t find them…) But last year was spectacular for me. People recommended books and I read them and they were good.
In the area of nonfiction, I read some spectacular writing last year. Lori Gottleib, Jen Gunter, Patrick Radden Keefe, and Michelle McNamara were the true stand outs. Michelle’s book about the Golden State Killer was so well-written and well-researched that it was a breath of fresh air after a long spell of nonfiction that just didn’t work for me. Keefe’s book of Northern Ireland was fascinating and horrifying. To think that people were living through this chaos during my own lifetime and I was almost completely unaware was unimaginable. Being from the Northeast and having many friends who identified as Irish growing up, it was a very big eye opener. And, Jen Gunter’s Vagina Bible is a book that I think should be on every woman’s bookshelf. I’m buying one for our house, because I think it is such an important reference to have. Plus, I love Jen’s no nonsense style. [The books that these author’s wrote are Maybe You Should Talk To Someone (Lori Gottleib), The Vagina Bible (Jen Gunter), Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Patrick Radden Keefe), and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (Michelle McNamara).]
Fiction is the realm that really stood out to me last year. Usually when podcasters, bloggers, and magazines recommend fiction books I am really disappointed, but for me, the books that I read in 2019 were very good and some were stand outs.
Here are my favorites in reverse reading order:
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. This was an amazon first reads book and so my expectations were exceedingly low. I think this might be the first of those that I actually read and really liked. The main character, Evvie Drake, is leaving her husband when she gets a call that he’s been killed in a car accident. She goes from almost ex-wife to “grieving” widow. This book is about how she picks up the pieces and reinvents herself. It was charming and funny. A nice little book.
Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout was my best of the year. It’s probably not for everyone, but I loved it. Like Olive Kitteridge, this is a collection of short stories about Olive and the people who live in her small town of Crosby, Maine. I love the way Elizabeth Strout writes and I’ve read everything that she has published so far. She is a very gifted writer. I don’t know what else to say. I was so excited to see that this book was coming out in the fall of 2019 and I was not disappointed at all.
The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger. This was recommended by Laura Tremaine on the podcast 10 Things to Tell You and cemented Laura as a book recommender for me. Set in Crystal, Colorado this book is about a group of families that have been friends for over a decade and what happens to their friendships (and their personalities) when a new competitive gifted school opens in their community.
The Writing Class by Jincy Willett. This was recommended by Swistle. This was a different sort of book than the type that I usually like, but I thought this was an excellent story. A group of adults take a University Extension Creative Writing class taught by Amy Gallup, but the story takes a scary turn when the students receive nasty notes, middle of the night phone calls, and stupid pranks. However, when one of the students is murdered, Amy realizes that she needs to use her wits and their own words to find out who it is.
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jankins Reid. I think one of the reasons that I loved this book so much was that it was written in the style of an interview for almost all of the major players in the book. So, it had an air of a documentary or nonfiction book which totally drew me in. I’ve heard that others didn’t like the format, but I loved it. I was totally drawn in. The characters were well-developed, the story was fun and interesting. I thought this was such a good book.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner. I heard about this from the Satellite Sister’s Podcast when Jennifer Weiner was interviewed on the day that they released their Best Beach Bag Books. Intrigued I ordered it and I loved it. It follows a pair of sisters through four decades of life, observing the choices that they are allowed to have and that they make through their lives. It really made me think about how much we think is dictated to us and how much control we really have.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. I felt like Liane really redeemed herself with this one. Nine strangers converge in the Australian outback for a health retreat, but the retreat is so strange and the atmosphere is so bizarre that the main character, Frances Welty, soon wonders if it is all on the up and up and more importantly, if she is in danger.
All links are to the Goodreads page for the book